What is Narrative Marketing

Every brand is looking at creating content. In fact, Gary Vee says brands should “act like a media company in today’s digital age”. But what does that even mean? Some are still trying to figure out “what to say” and “how to say it” after setting up social media accounts. And what’s the difference between Content Marketing and Narrative Marketing? 

Narrative Marketing

Narrative Marketing is the multi-disciplinary management of how the brand story unfolds to, and connects emotionally with, the audience to inspire desired actions. It is achieved through the co-creation of stories with customers, staff and publics within a designed story world.

It is no longer “what to say” and “how to say it” that matters in our highly connected and social world these days. What matters is “what are the audience hearing and saying”? The democratization of information meant that everyone armed with a mobile phone and a social media account is capable of creating content about the brand across different platforms. It is no longer possible for brands to control what is being said about the company. In other words, brands can only work to manage their brand narrative.

Apart from the brand’s own stories, there are three other “tributaries” that contribute to the overall narrative.

  • Customers

Say what you want but ultimately, it is the customer’s experience with the brand that will determine their satisfaction. Emotionally connected customers will be much more likely to contribute to the narrative 

  • Staff

You can paint a great picture, but people are more likely to believe the “inside story” provided by an employee. A disgruntled employee can do lots of damage to the brand narrative.

  • Publics

Publics are anyone who is interested in the brand/business but not a customer. They include environment enthusiasts who are interested in your sustainability plan or women’s group interested in gender equality in your company etc.

Hence, Narrative Marketing actually spans across different functions: Marketing, Human Resource and Corporate Communications, requiring skill sets such as Storytelling, Customer Relations Management, Employee Engagement and Motivation, Public Relations Management and Crisis Communications and Management.

The “official” brand story created by the brand is the story canon. Rather than limiting the narrative to the brand story alone, brands should create a “Story World” much like that of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, in order to allow customers, employees and publics to contribute their stories. The whole narrative is therefore a co-creation between all parties with the brand providing the story world and story guide.

In Summary...

Narrative Marketing goes back to the basics in recognizing that every component of the marketing function (creating, communicating, delivering and exchanging) has an impact on the customer experience which in turn forms a story of its own.

While Content Marketing opens up the opportunity for brands to create and use of content to conjure up the brand story, Narrative Marketing argues for the need to design a story world to incorporate both the canonical (or “official”) story from the brand’s content as well as stories from the additional tributaries of customer, employees and publics.

It is this holistic management of the brand narrative that will create brand value and equity with loyal, engaged and emotionally connected fans.